It has been a wild 24 hours for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Following an away loss to Charlotte Friday evening, the Thunder pushed a stuck bus in the ice, awaiting a plane for five hours, and settled in Cleveland 11 hours before tip.
With the tight schedule, they caught some jetlag.
In their quick turnaround, the Thunder failed to keep tabs, flailing to the Cavaliers 94-87 in their back-to-back capper. With the plummet, the Thunder have now dipped into a five-game hole, initially spurred against the Cavs.
With the loss, Oklahoma City now holds a 14-32 record.
Cleveland took advantage of Oklahoma City’s small-ball unit in Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to open play, berating the Thunder with inside shot after inside shot while Oklahoma City stuck to guard play. After opening counters, Cleveland’s towers in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley proved to be too much in the mid-portion, adding the Cavs’ first 13-of-19 points to charge a 12-2 run, and a seven-point lead. By the end of one, the Thunder were out 24-22.
The Thunder “bench mob” started the second frame strongly, stirring an 8-2 run, coated with two threes, to take the lead. In response, a 20-7 Cavs run pushed Oklahoma City back double digits before an 8-0 Thunder run drew the game to one possession, trailing 47-45 at the half.
Cleveland returned to their double-digit ways in the third, pouring out a 19-8 stretch to tack on a 13-point lead. However, unlike the prior frame – a late swing was not in the cards – leading to OKC entering the fourth out 78-68.
Emotions ran high in midsegment of the fourth as Kevin Love took exception to a loose-ball elbow from Lu Dort, yielding a flagrant foul penalty two, and an ejection.
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Following Dort’s exit, the Cavs and Thunder intertwined in a two-and-three possession grudge match, leading to a six-point OKC deficit leading inside two minutes. The Thunder posted a few jabs the Cavs’ way, including a successful challenge, but the clock hit zero.
Three-point shooting has been the overarching issue with the Thunder this season, and Saturday was no different. In Oklahoma City’s 41 attempts, only 12 tries converted – staking at a 29.3-percent clip. With the feeble production, they hold a 27.6% hit rate (32-of-116) in their last three games.
Cleveland also partook in the slugfest with 22 team turnovers; but a solidified frontcourt paved the way. In their bully-ball, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and Lauri Markannen ended play with 15, 14, and nine points, respectively. Markannen took an early exit following a right ankle sprain.
Darius Garland led the Cavs with a 23-point, 11-rebound double-double.
After recent inside-oriented games, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got into his groove from all three levels. In the 23-year-old’s 39 minutes, he caught his stride shooting 12-of-23 in all while nailing three triples in play. SGA’s breakthrough from deep has been long in the works as the guard’s last night of hitting 3+ tripes dates back to December 15, 2021.
Kenrich Williams’ productivity on both ends has been a talking point since climbing the depth chart last season, Saturday was no different. In his second game back from injury, Williams added a constant to Oklahoma City’s mix, clocking in 12 points and 4 rebounds off an uber-efficient 5-of-8 palate.
Outside of Shai, Oklahoma City’s starters struggled immensely as the fourtet of Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl posted a shaky 8-of-37 (21.6%) output.
Next up, the Thunder will head home on Monday to face the Chicago Bulls.